Grants fund projects that will increase the competitiveness of Minnesota grown specialty crops in domestic and foreign markets. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, floriculture, and processed products that have 50 percent or more specialty crop content, by weight; exclusive of added water. A comprehensive list of eligible specialty crops is available on the USDA's web site.

basket with colorful vegetables flying out
 

Applicant Eligibility

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) encourages the following groups to apply for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP):

  • non-profit organizations
  • producer organizations
  • government agencies
  • universities
  • other agricultural groups

For-profit entities, farms, and other businesses who want to develop sector-wide research and development projects are also eligible.

Project Eligibility

Projects must enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops that are grown in Minnesota by:

  • Leveraging efforts to market and promote specialty crops;
  • Assisting producers with research and development relevant to specialty crops;
  • Expanding availability and access to specialty crops; and
  • Addressing local and regional challenges confronting specialty crop producers.

specialty crop is defined by the USDA. This program cannot fund starting a business or expanding a farm. Each project must demonstrate external support from specialty crop stakeholders and produce measurable outcomes for the specialty crop industry and/or public beneficiaries. Projects that address problems or opportunities that cross state boundaries are eligible.

Visit the USDA's SCBGP Awarded Grants page to see previously funded projects in Minnesota and across the country.

Funding Priorities

Minnesota will be seeking projects for our 2021 SCBG that pertain to the following issues affecting the specialty crop industry:

  • Improve distribution systems and marketing of specialty crops, such as reducing costs, increasing promotion, or creating new methods to achieve and sustain profitable businesses.
  • Increase child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops.
  • Research on and development of techniques that focus on pest or disease control.
  • Develop new or improved specialty crop seed or plant varieties.
  • Research and develop techniques to increase sustainable production of specialty crops including season extension and environmental outcomes, such as adaption to drought and floods and increasing soil health.
  • Improve capacity of all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act, for example, developing “Good Agricultural Practices,” “Good Handling Practices,” “Good Manufacturing Practices,” and other support for farmers, packers, and processors to enhance food safety.

Projects that benefit beginning farmers will receive up to two points. A Beginning Farmer is an individual or entity that has not operated a farm or ranch for more than ten years and substantially participates in the operation.

Projects that benefit Emerging Farmers will receive up to five points. The USDA tracks projects that benefit Socially Disadvantaged farmers as defined in the USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) 2020 SCBGP Request for Applications (PDF). This definition includes Emerging Farmers, such as Native American producers, immigrant farmers, farmers of color, and women.

Priority for COVID relief SCBG funding will be for projects designed to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on specialty crop producers and specialty crop food supply chain. This priority will be given according to the requirements the USDA places on the COVID-19 relief funds.

We are also seeking input on project priorities for the next Request for Proposals (RFP). Your suggestions will be used to help improve the competitive review process. Please submit comments to Ann Kuzj by December 8, 2021, for consideration for FFY2022 SCBG RFP.

For more information, refer to the Funding Purpose in section 1.2 and the list of Project Types in section 1.3 of the USDA-AMS 2020 SCBGP Request for Applications or read the 2020 Minnesota SCBG Request for Proposals (PDF).

Amounts Available

Applicants may request a grant award of at least $20,000 up to a maximum of $150,000 per project that spans up to 2.5 years.

Applying

The application period is now open. All applications must be received by 4:00 p.m. Central Time on March 16, 2021.

Read the 2021 Request for Proposals (revised to include COVID-19 relief funds) for eligibility and requirements. If you need this information in an alternative format, please contact the program administrator.

We encourage you to read the Question and Answer (Q&A) page and view previous project descriptions on the Past Projects page.

Program Timeline

Step Date
RFP released January 8, 2021
Revised RFP released February 11, 2021
Applications due to the MDA March 16, 2021
Grant Review Process About six to eight weeks
MDA notifies conditionally approved applicants May 2021
MDA submits state plan to USDA May 2021
USDA approval (anticipated) September 2021
MDA issues approval letters to successful applicants and initiates contracting October 2021
Project work can start (anticipated) November 1, 2021
Project end date April 30, 2024
Latest project end date upon approved request September 29, 2024